Here is a competition just for Christmas; a little something to say a big thank you to all my readers for their support during 2013. I am offering the chance to win one of Elena Cobb’s Higgledy Piggledy Jazz piano volumes; a superb and highly acclaimed piano series for all those who want to play jazz and who want to learn to improvise. All you have to do is leave a comment in the comment box at the end of this blog post and the winners will be selected at random on Monday 23rd December 2013. Elena has kindly donated all four volumes in her collection (pictured above), so there will be four winners! What are you waiting for? Get writing! If you do comment please leave your full name – thank you.
Higgledy Piggledy Jazz focuses on encouraging young pianists (and older ones too!) to get to grips with the jazz idiom and crucially learn to improvise (a form of ‘free’ playing where a pianist composes ‘on the spot’). This is a challenging task, but piano students definitely benefit from being exposed to all styles of music, and jazz is often ‘left out’ in formative training because it’s difficult to assimilate and complicated to teach (especially if, like myself, the teacher has very little aptitude and understanding of this genre).
Elena Cobb, the author of the series, has addressed this problem, breaking down all the misconceptions and difficulties. Her books are easy to understand, beautifully presented and cleverly constructed, leading pupils through the complex steps of basic improvisation extremely effectively. You can read my review of the Higgledy Piggledy Jazz Series here.
The philosophy behind Elena’s books is very simple, she wants classically trained pupils to have an opportunity to learn to improvise and play jazz; “I know too well how scary it is to step away from the safety of the musical sheet and to burst into spontaneous improvisation. Please do not panic! Instead, think about having a go. My music is written for classically trained teachers and pupils, and those who are keen to try. Sections for improvisation with simple suggestions are added in several pieces. These offer great opportunities to break away from the mould. The bass clef is coloured to match three chords in the twelve bar blues. So, take a deep breath and go for it, what you have got to lose?” Elena also believes that piano playing for beginners should no longer be such a solitary business. She wants young pianists to have more opportunities to perform with other musicians, and remarks, ‘to begin with, performances need not be perfect! Improvisation is always a work in progress!’
The Higgledy Piggledy Jazz apps, developed for iPad, Android and web by the British company WebPractice, will be released early in the new year with the official launch during the MusicExpo event on the 7th and 8th of February 2014 (in London) where Elena will be presenting a workshop on improvisation for classically trained beginners.
Elena is also presenting an EPTA double book presentation at Foulds Music Store in Derby, on Saturday February 15th at 12 pm. I will be presenting a talk all about my book, ‘So You Want To Play The Piano?’ and Elena will be leading a workshop on improvisation for classically trained beginners based on her Higgledy Piggledy Jazz method. Exciting stuff! So do come along if you are in the area.
Elena’s tunes have been selected to be set pieces at two music festivals next year. Dulwich Music Festival 2014 in the UK, where ‘Super Duck’ will be performed, and also at the Gibraltar Festival for Young Musicians 2014. A cup for the best jazz performance named after Elena Cobb will be awarded at the Gibraltar Festival for Young Musicians for the very first time. Performers can choose to play any of the tunes from the Higgledy Piggledy Jazz Series – piano, alto sax & classical guitar ensemble.
New books include ‘Cloud Seven Latin’ arrangement for jazz band, which will be premiered by NJYO in the Spring 2014. A ‘Circle of Life’ for piano is aimed at pianists of intermediate to advanced levels, again premiered in Summer 2014 and ‘Higgledy Piggledy Jazz‘, or the ‘Importance of Being Happy’, a toe-tapping musical, the premiere of which was sold out at the Ashbourne Festival earlier this year; this score will be released in the Spring 2014.
Four of Elena’s compositions were recorded by the UK’s sax legend Snake Davis, saxophonist for Eurhythmics and M People, and right now are available to listen to on Elena’s Soundcloud. Higgledy Piggledy Jazz has been critically acclaimed; the International Piano Magazine wrote (in October 2013) that ‘This is a hugely enjoyable collection of six original, well crafted and highly accessible pieces for grade 6+ players in need of some light-hearted pianistic relief.’
So if you haven’t yet discovered this excellent series, do enter the competition.
Here are a few clips of Elena’s compositions: